Skip to main content

Fugitive methane emissions cast dark cloud over Australia’s Net Zero ambitions

July 05, 2023

IEA estimates actual emissions far exceed government estimates, putting industrial facilities under pressure

Key Takeaways:

Fugitive methane emissions from the coal, oil and gas sectors are nearly twice as high as national estimates.

Correcting this under-reporting means large industrial facilities would have to double their rate of decarbonisation and halve their emissions by 2030.


We need urgent action to better assess and address those emissions and ensure industries and households do not bear the cost for the emissions by the coal, oil and gas industries.

5 July 2023 (IEEFA Australia): Fugitive emissions of methane in Australia are far higher than reported, meaning industry efforts to meet the country’s net zero targets may need to be significantly recalibrated, according to a new report

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently published estimates of actual methane emissions by country for 2022, including emissions detected by satellites.
The IEA estimates that methane emissions from coal mining in Australia are about 81% higher than the national inventory data, and for oil and gas sector, 92% higher.

Although it has a shorter life in the atmosphere, methane is a far more damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This is because it absorbs much more energy than CO2 while it exists in the atmosphere – warming 82 times more than CO2 over a 20-year period.

“According to the IEA estimates, Australia is currently omitting 28 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) of fugitive methane emissions from its inventory, which is about 6% of its total emissions,” says author Amandine Denis-Ryan, chief executive of IEEFA Australia.

The IEA data means major industrial emitters covered by the federal government’s Safeguard Mechanism would have to more than double their emissions reductions by 2030.

“It is critical to correct these underestimates as soon as possible, in particular in the context
of the declining cap set on Australia’s largest industrial emitters as part of the Safeguard
Mechanism,” Ms Denis-Ryan says.

“The under-reporting will have a very material impact on the Safeguard Mechanism baseline declines. Based on our calculations, the baseline decline rate would need to be doubled from 4.9% to 9.8% a year for covered facilities. This would require covered facilities to more than halve their emissions over a period of seven years.”

The only alternative would be to increase emission reduction requirements from other sectors of the economy. With such strong implications, it is critical that methane emissions under-reporting is corrected as soon as possible, and that a plan is developed to address those emissions to ensure that Australian industries and households do not bear the brunt of the cost for the methane emissions by the coal, oil and gas industries. For example, the United States introduced a new waste emissions charge for methane emissions from the oil and gas industry equivalent to A$45 per tonne of CO2 equivalent in 2024, A$60/tCO2e in 2025, and A$76/tCO2e in 2026 onwards.


Read the report: Gross under-reporting of fugitive methane emissions has big implications for industry 

Media contact: Amy Leiper [email protected]

Author contacts: Amandine Denis-Ryan [email protected] 

About IEEFA: The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) examines issues related to energy markets, trends, and policies. The Institute’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy. (

Amandine Denis-Ryan

Amandine Denis-Ryan is CEO of IEEFA's Australia team. Amandine is a recognized expert in net-zero emissions transitions across the economy and led the development of the first domestic net-zero emissions pathway for Australia and subsequent updates.

Go to Profile

Join our newsletter

Keep up to date with all the latest from IEEFA